Students for Global Health UCL
How Effective is Action Against Child Mortality in Burkina Faso?
Updated: Sep 2, 2020
According to UNICEF, Burkina Faso is not only one of the least developed countries in the world, but it also has one of the highest rates of child mortality (81.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017). It would be interesting to explore the actions of different organisations who have intervened to overcome this problem at the national and international levels.
A prominent example is a unique mother-child network in the region of Hauts-Bassins, which specifically focuses on supporting programmes in the community to promote the well-being of mothers and children. Recent results demonstrated that the network had made reasonable progress in terms of creating an efficient communication system between maternity and paediatric services. In fact, this particular network was one of the first networks in West Africa to emphasise the importance of building relationships and sharing experiences and resources for the benefit of patients.
UNICEF plays a large role in the development of Burkina Faso in many fields such as economic development, sanitation and protecting the rights of vulnerable children. One example is the UNICEF-ALIMA partnership; ALIMA is an international humanitarian NGO composed of a network of medical NGOs. Due to a total budget of € 7 million from UNICEF and almost 1000 employees, the organisation was able to treat 60,000 cases of severe child malnutrition and 250,000 cases of malaria in 2012. The key to the programme’s success is networking in order to share good practices and resources, which is particularly important in the midst of a nutritional crisis. With continued support from UNICEF, ALIMA will be able to continue to grow and strengthen itself in terms of management, training and operational capacity.
In addition, a new cooperation programme (2018-2020) between the government and UNICEF was also launched in 2017. In terms of reducing child mortality, the programme aims to provide fully integrated quality services for mothers and children under 5 from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. A total budget of $100 million will allow the government to put into place appropriate strategies in order to establish equitable social services, reinforce the strength of community systems and change social norms.
Due to the fact that Burkina Faso has not fully achieved 'The Millennium Development Goals' in the areas of child/maternal mortality and sanitation, the country is perceived to be a priority for the USA. USAID primarily focuses on the prevention and treatment of malaria; a major disease responsible for numerous deaths of children under 5 despite the fact that it is largely evitable. Furthermore, the programme is unique in the sense that it educates women in important areas such as general health, hygiene and child nutrition. It is essential to reverse detrimental health practices and negative social norms in communities in order to ensure the well-being of children.
The government should take measures to reduce socioeconomic inequalities by creating multi-sectorial policies addressing the disparities in accessibility to quality healthcare. High-income families often live in urban areas, which means they have the capacity to obtain products and services which determine better health; consequently, the child mortality rate is almost twice as high in rural areas. Firstly, it is essential that rural areas receive more funding to improve their services in terms of planning and management. Secondly, the government should reduce the cost of preventative care for children from low-income families so that more children can avoid fatal but preventable diseases such as malaria. Another possible intervention could involve creating a technology-based system, which regularly surveys the progress of preventative care, general health care and indicators of health.
It is evident that Burkina Faso has made real strides towards significantly reducing the rate of child mortality. It can be concluded that UNICEF plays a major role in providing financial aid and advice to improve factors that influence child mortality. Keeping in line with the national motto of Burkina Faso (Unity-Progress-Justice), collaboration and clear policies are essential to bring about significant change, especially in the most disadvantaged areas.